Matthew Fisher winning 40 percent of the future royalties to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” could open the floodgates to a wave of claims from artists who feel their contributions to classic songs haven’t resulted in adequate recognition, according to the barrister hired to dispute the claim.
Lawrence Abramson, who represented Procol Harum lead singer Gary Brooker, said everyone in Fisher’s position will have a go.
The issue has been thoroughly tested in court after a four-year battle. In December 2006, a High Court judge ruled that Fisher co-wrote the song and should receive 40 percent of the song’s royalties.
The Court of Appeal last year agreed Fisher was the song’s co-author but said he should receive no money from past or future royalties because he waited too long to make his claim.
On July 30, the law lords – the U.K.’s highest court – overturned the Court of Appeal verdict that 61-year-old Fisher had no right to royalties.
As for the delay in making the claim, Fisher said Brooker had “rebuffed or ignored” his inquiries in previous decades as to whether he could have a share of the song’s royalties.
The five lords said that English law did not impose a time limit on copyright claims and that the delay had benefited Brooker.
“A person who has a good idea, as Mr. Fisher did when he composed the well-known organ solo that did so much to make the song in its final form such a success, is entitled to protect the advantage that he has gained from this and to earn his reward,” Lord Hope explained.
The lords held that the original music was composed by Brooker, with lyrics written by Keith Reid, the band’s manager and lyricist. But Fisher later composed the distinctive organ sections.
The song, which topped the singles chart for five weeks upon its release, subsequently sold 6 million copies and is the most-played track in public places.